Sunday, July 22, 2007

big thoughts on breastfeeding

Last night as I was nursing Stefan down to sleep I started to wonder what is it that invigorates me about coming to a conference. I think the introduction to the Jack Newman book that I bought summed it up for me: breastfeeding is not better breastfeeding is biologically normal. Breastfeeding is what our species is meant to do. I could say the same thing about natural birth. In fact, I will! Natural birth is biologically normal.

There are, of course, cultural factors that affect both birth and breastfeeding. For breastfeeding we have a culture where breastfeeding moms get kicked off of planes, we have a society that makes it difficult for mothers to actually choose to be home with their babies more than a few weeks after birth, we have a medical system that encourages birth interventions which do affect breastfeeding relationships. All of that changes how women nurse and birth, but that doesn't change the facts. The fact is that breastfeeding is biologically normal. Babies are born with stomachs built for digesting breastmilk. Breasts are made to make milk. Mom's hormones make her want to hold and be near her baby.

Formula wants to be breastmilk. Every "improvement" they make to formula is to make it more like breastmilk. It is a tool to prevent babies from starving but it is not equal to breastmilk. It can't be. There is no way that science can duplicate the wonderful substance that is breastmilk. Just no way. That doesn't mean that women whose breastfeeding relationships are sabotaged are bad mothers. It does mean that the medical establishment often doesn't give women full and correct information and does things to them during birth that a woman might not consent to if she knew what it meant for her breastfeeding relationship.

Okay, I'm done with my soapbox. I just wanted to remind myself (and perhaps the few of you reading this) that there are some things up for debate, but the biologically appropriate behavior of our species is not one of them. Humans are mammals, humans make milk, human babies need to be carried and nursed and cuddled!

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